The city of Bologna, the first settlements date back to at least one 1000 BC, has always been an important urban center, first under the Etruscans (Velzna/Felsina) in the 6th century BC, then the Celts (BonA) in the 4th century BC, then under the Romans (Bononia) in the 2nd century BC, then again in the Middle Ages, as a free municipality (for one century it was the fifth largest European city based on population). Home to the oldest university in the world, University of Bologna, founded in 1088, Bologna hosts thousands of students who enrich the social and cultural life of the city. Famous for its towers and lengthy porticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical center (one of the largest in Italy).
An important cultural and artistic center, its importance in terms of landmarks can be attributed to homogenous mixture of monuments and architectural examples (medieval towers, antique buildings, churches, the layout of its historical center) as well as works of art which are the result of a first class architectural and artistic history.
Bologna is also an important transportation crossroad for the roads and trains of Northern Italy, where many important mechanical, electronic and nutritional industries have their headquarters.
According to the most recent data gathered by the European Regional Economic Growth Index (E-REGI) of 2009, Bologna is the first Italian city and the 47th European city in terms of its economic growth rate.